# 70 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Sixteen: Psalms 9 & 10. Too many lemons?

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Despite David’s outburst of praise in the first verses of Psalm 9 and his reverting to the “prophetic perfect” along with other words of faith concerning God and his ways, I am also aware that Psalm 9 isn’t all positive. In fact, he finishes with a heartfelt cry to God to “Arise…let the nations be judged…strike them with terror…let the nations know they are but men.” (9:19-20)

 

But even this is pretty tame as compared to the second part of this “fascinating two-part poem”.  As we read Psalm 10 we could be excused for wondering if David had just eaten too many lemons!  He certainly was not happy with his present situation (due to the arrogance of his enemies) and typical of a Prayer (or Lament) psalm, he lets God know all about it.

 

As you read though, he does seem to have good reasons for feeling unhappy about things. He describes his experience of a type of humanity that sadly has all too often dominated history, and those not only confined to a few ethnic groups. You name any nation in history (past and present) and they will usually have had their fair share of evil and brutal people similar to the ones described by David in this psalm. People that are arrogant (v 2), proud and greedy with no thought of God (vs 3-4), self-deluded (v 6), liars and manipulators (v 7), murderers (v 8), bullies who take advantage of the vulnerable and care nothing for justice and so trap, crush and annihilate their victims (vs 9-10), and people who consider that accountability to God is a laughing matter (v 11).

 

In our own day little has changed. I read recently that “It is estimated that some 200 million evangelicals in over 35 countries are suffering persecution for their faith.” (SU notes) Only recently on the news, reporting on the influx of refugees into Europe from North Africa and the Middle East, a young Christian man from Libya was interviewed and when asked what would be his fate if he had stayed home, he replied “I would be killed because of my faith.”

 

So, in the face of such wickedness surrounding him and his people, David cries out to his God whom he knows abhors such evil. He asks:

 

“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (v 1 NIV)

 

The Passion Version puts it this way:

 

“Lord, you seem so far away when evil is near! Why do you stand so far off as though you don’t care?”

 

Maybe you are thinking that this type of prayer language was ok for David back then, but should we as Christians really talk to God like this? I mean doesn’t Peter say in his first letter to the persecuted church of the 1st Century:

 

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV)

 

In line with Peter’s words, Dietrich Bonhoeffer even describes suffering for the sake of Christ as “the badge of true discipleship”. (D Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship Simon and Schuster 1995)

 

As true as all this is, it seems though that there is still a case for an honest and open (and faith-filled) approach to God when pain and suffering abounds, either our own or that of others around us. I think Peter alluded to this when he quoted words similar to Psalm 55:22,

 

“Cast all your anxiety [or cares] on Him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

 

When trials come, certainly as believers we should not be surprised (if we have read and believed our Bibles), and joy is a gift of God available in the midst of the world’s chaos (maybe part of what the psalmist speaks of when he says “he will sustain you” Psalm 55:22). But we are able to talk honestly to God about these things. We don’t just have to grit our teeth and endure, while maybe deep down becoming resentful and bitter! And just how we can to talk to God we can learn from the psalms.

 

Paul Bradbury says:

“…we [in the church] have lost the ability to lament…We have lost a critical ability in our language of faith expression to articulate anything of integrity and truth in the context of suffering and tragedy…”  (see references # 21)

Walter Brueggemann also suggests:

“…in a society that engages in great denial and grows numb by avoidance and denial, it is important to recover and use [lament] psalms that speak the truth about us.” (see references # 2)

But please note, the words of the psalmists are always based on their faith in God. They are not the rantings and ravings of an unbeliever, but rather are like the words of a child to his/her parent expressing his/her feelings and concerns to one he/she knows understands and cares and won’t be intimidated or offended.

 

So the same person who wrote, “listen to my prayer, O God…my thoughts trouble me…My heart is in anguish…Fear and trembling have beset me…” (Psalm 55:1-5), later wrote, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (55:22) and finally concluded, “But as for me, I trust in you” (55:23)

 

Father, despite his enemies, David concludes in faith that “The Lord is King for ever and ever” and that “You hear…the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed.” (Psalm 10:16-18). I am reminded of Paul who also said, “Praise be to…God…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…” (2 Cor. 1:3) and later reminded us that his trials “happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” (2 Cor. 1:9). So, hear our prayer to you this day, we cast our cares on you, we rely on you, we trust in you. Amen.

 

# 69 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Sixteen: Psalms 9 & 10. “prophetic perfect”

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When we read the psalms and the prophets (including the NT writers) we might wonder how they can speak so positively and confidently about life when everything around them is in complete chaos.

Well, it seems, that in certain places in their writings to accomplish this they use what is  called the “prophetic perfect” tense! And it is “a literary technique used in the Bible that describes future events that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they had already happened.”   (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophetic_perfect_tense)

The psalmists use it often, including in Psalm 9:3-6 as follows:

“My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.”

So, as per the Wikipedia definition above, here the psalmist “describes future events [upholding his cause and bringing judgement on his enemies] that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they had already happened.”

It is interesting, in that, as we read this whole psalm we certainly don’t get the impression that this is yet the case as the psalmist still cries out to God for help against those who oppose him. He says in verses 13-14, 19-20:

“Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.

Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal.”

So how can the psalmist be so confident “that [these things] are so certain to happen”? I believe, it is because of what the Word of God teaches him (and us) about God’s character, sovereignty and the history of God’s “wonderful deeds” in the past, and also from the psalmist’s own experience of God and his ways. So, he acknowledges in verses 7-18:

The Lord reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted…

16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”

I wonder, despite what might be happening in your life or mine, are we able to talk so confidently of the future in the same way the psalmist did? Are we able to use the “prophetic perfect” tense with complete faith that it will actually happen?

The Apostle John did in Revelation 11:15 when he quoted loud voices in heaven, which said:

‘The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.’”

How we look forward to that day, when faith will become fact, not with just a hope-so attitude, not with just some religious optimism, but with true confidence in God. As it says in the Message:

“What you [God] say, goes—it always has.”  (Psalm 93:5)

Father, we do not want to deny all the suffering and injustice that is happening around us in our broken world. We can’t deny our own pain. But we do know you well enough to acknowledge that it won’t always be this way. You will have the last word and for that we are extremely grateful. Help us to live in the light of this truth. Amen.

# 68 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Fifteen: Psalms 9 & 10. A “fascinating two-part poem.”

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“When JB Phillips worked on a paraphrase of the New Testament, he described the experience as similar to working on the electricity of a house – with the mains switched on! The book was ‘live’.” (SU notes: JB Phillips Ring of Truth Hodder and Stoughton 1967)

Certainly over my life I have experienced this truth seeing God use his word powerfully to create change in my life and the lives of others. And I feel the same way, as I consider each of the psalms. Nothing boring about this book of prayer in poetry form, and the next two psalms are again full of ‘power surges’ as David talks to God about his and the nation’s situation. Are you ready?

But, first of all, why deal with Psalms 9 and 10 together?

Well, there are a number of reasons, not the least being that in some versions of the Bible, the Greek and Latin versions, these psalms are combined as one Psalm.  And so, we ask, why is that the case? Well, let me allow someone far better qualified that I to explain.

Kidner says, “The absence of a title to Psalm 10 supports the view that it runs on from Psalm 9, and this is strengthened by the presence of a fragmentary acrostic [when the first letter of every second verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet], begun in Psalm 9 and concluded in Psalm 10.”

He then continues: “But the mood is so changed in Psalm 10:1 as to leave the impression that these are in fact two psalms, written as companion pieces to complement one another, concerned as they are with twin realities of a fallen world; the certain triumph of God, and the present, if short-lived, triumphing of the wicked.” (see references # 29)

Wilcock describes these psalms as a “fascinating two-part poem.” (see references # 5  )

If we think about types of psalms, then these two psalms appear to combine a number of them all in one (or two).

Let’s start at what is always a good place to begin when we pray, and that is praise and thanksgiving. David prays:

“Lord, I will worship you with extended hands                                                                                     As my whole heart explodes with praise!                                                                                                   I will tell everyone everywhere about your wonderful works                                                         And how your marvellous miracles exceed expectations!                                                                    I will jump for joy and shout in triumph                                                                                               As I sing your song and make music for the Most High God.”  (9:1-3 TPT)

If we had not yet read what follows in this psalm and particularly the next psalm, one could get the impression that life is pretty rosy for David. A king living in luxury and peace? Not a care in the world. Hardly! The next verse introduces the reality: “my enemies” (9:3) which he elaborates on as we continue reading.

David here does what any person of faith in God should do in “times of trouble” (9:9). David reveals what makes the difference between the person whose faith shines even in difficult times and the person who drowns in misery, looking for external causes and often eventually blaming others. Instead of such a self- defeating exercise, here we can learn from David as he remembers all he knows that is good about God and everything else about God and his ways that gives him hope even if all around him seems lost.

Later in the psalm he acknowledges the truth that:

“The Lord reigns forever;                                                                                                                            he has established his throne for judgement.                                                                                      He will judge the world in righteousness;                                                                                             he will govern the peoples with justice.                                                                                               The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,                                                                                                      a stronghold in times of trouble.                                                                                                         Those who know your name will trust in you,                                                                                      for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (9:7-10 NIV)

I am often amazed at the faith of some of the OT characters, e.g. Abraham, Joseph, Jeremiah, and not the least David. Not perfect, but their faith was often strong in the midst of incredible difficulty and opposition. And all this prior to the coming of Jesus with all the marvellous revelations that this brings concerning the character and wonderful works of God. Since the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we now know so much more about what God is like, and so, in one sense, knowing what we know, we have no excuse not to trust him, no matter what the situation of our life is.

Paul puts it like this in Romans 8:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us … 31  If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Father,

“I will worship you with extended hands                                                                                                   As my whole heart explodes with praise!”

Your word is indeed alive and powerful as the Holy Spirit reveals the Son to us and changes us into the people of God you desire us to be. Continue to keep our hearts open to all that you want to say and give us the strength to walk in the ways you show us, giving praise and thanks to you, whatever the situation. Amen.